Another cherished warehouse memory features Tim getting blind drunk and shitting on the linoleum floor in front of our shared closet.
Tim had been sloshed and passed out after mewling about the unfairness of life. After he had woken from forty-five minutes of fitful slumber I heard him stir, immediately unlock the drawer in his nightstand and fumble for a bottle—undoubtedly a pint of cheap vodka. Then I heard him unscrew the cap and guzzle a healthy measure.
The only time Tim didn’t indulge in sub-bottom shelf booze, aside from the occasional failed attempt to take control of his life, was when he found himself broke. (To be fair, the nursing home rug under which his doctors had swept him discouraged the slightest notion of personal responsibility and demanded unquestioning submission to half-assed authority.) The CNAs were happy to lend rotgut money to him when they had it. Word of his forthcoming purchase would spread among the staff and after the administrator had gone for the evening, the night-shift CNAs assigned to other floors would visit Tim one by one to mooch a snort. These “good will” visits provided an ideal way to avoid work.
I put my headphones on and listened to some music. As the night progressed I heard a handful of CNAs stopping by our room to visit Tim. I‘d hear muffled conversation, someone unscrewing the cap, hurried gulping. The CNAs likely didn’t drink alone. I’d grown accustomed to lowlife shenanigans and didn’t pay much attention.
At about 11:00 that night I decided to read. It was time for the graveyard shift to take over; the parade of thirsty CNAs had long since ceased. This didn’t discourage Tim. He continued drinking and mumbled an unintelligible toast before each series of gulps. Those toasts must have woke the Holy Spirit within him because he began to pray in a slurred stage whisper. He deferentially explained to God that he tried really hard to be a sober Christian. Then he earnestly implored that the Cubs please not suck. Finally he petitioned that his roommate (me) be a bit more sociable.
After a brief silence, he stole my attention and asked if I believed in God. I cringed at the prospect of discussing my belief system with a spineless drunk so I simply responded, “Sure.” Thankfully this answer satisfied him. Then he wondered aloud if I planned to entertain any visitors during the next two weeks. Since only two or three people I knew had the guts to go even near a convalescent home, and anyway they were almost always “busy,” I truthfully answered, “No.”
His curiosity satisfied, he noisily took another swig of vodka. The clincking of a belt buckle signaled his stripping down to his usual nighttime t-shirt and briefs. I relaxed somewhat and returned to my book. Tim seemed restless. I heard him repeatedly settle in his bed, then grumble while he threw himself out from beneath the sheets and padded back and forth next to his bed. At one point he switched on the clock radio sitting on his nightstand—it was tuned to some mindless talk radio station. After fifteen seconds he switched it off.
He shuffled to the closet near the door to our room. I heard a long slow splashing on the linoleum and thought he had spilled some vodka. Then the stink hit me. I got out of bed and into my chair, wheeled to the end of the curtain just past the edge of my bed to investigate.
It was obvious that chronic cheap alcohol abuse had ravaged Tim’s bowels. He stood unsteadily over a large brown puddle. He cut a pathetic figure wearing soiled underwear, Coke-bottle eyeglasses, and an infuriating expression that screamed “helpless pussy” below his mussed hair. I pointed with my index finger and angrily demanded that he clean his mess. He stared down at the puddle for several seconds, looked back at me and asked what I was talking about. Rather than wait for an answer he stumbled to his bed, fell in and passed out.
I flicked what resembled a light switch between our beds on the wall. This caused a light in the hallway above our door to flash and loud beeping to sound throughout our floor. Theoretically this notified your CNA that you needed immediate assistance. Realistically it wasn’t unusual to wait five minutes or more for help, at least on evenings and weekends when the administrator and head nurse weren’t in the building. Apparently seriously ill people magically became well during these hours. CNAs routinely claimed that their negligence was the result of an undersized staff. It’s a fact that most nursing homes are grossly understaffed but I saw plenty of CNAs treat their job as they would a part-time position at a hot dog stand.
Ten minutes after I flicked the switch a pissed-off nurse appeared. She stood in the doorway and demanded to know what was so important that I dared bother her. I silently pointed to the puddle. She regarded the puddle, then looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. Though a foul odor filled the room, the nurse was slow on the uptake and I had to explain the problem.
She used a snotty tone to remind me that the housekeeping staff had gone hours ago. She further bitched that she had just started her shift and I would have to wait until after she made her rounds for her to attend to the situation. She estimated that this would take twenty minutes.
Roughly an hour later a fat disheveled CNA waddled into the room. She asked me what happened; cataloging an obvious series of events irritated me. She looked down at the puddle, then at Tim sprawled on the bed and snoring softly through his open mouth. The sight made her slowly shake her head and chuckle. Then she left. I climbed back onto my bed and grabbed my book. I’d opened the windows and the February chill fed my irritation.
She returned five minutes later. I heard her scramble between the bathroom and the puddle, the gurgling of running water competed with the hissing of spray disinfectant. Then she gently woke Tim—she kept calling him “baby”; not as some women refer to everyone as “baby” but as a mother coos to her infant. She tottered to the dresser and fetched clean underwear. After a few trips from the bathroom to Tim’s bed and back again, she turned out the overhead light and bade her baby “sweet dreams” as she closed the door to our room behind her.
The next day I reported this incident to the administrator. Like the CNA he just shook his head and chuckled. When I objected to his passive demeanor he feigned anger and disgust. He suggested that I muster some “compassion” for Tim and condescendingly advised me to “wake up to the reality of [my] situation”. One of his instructors at the community college must’ve read The Prince.